My friends joke that I could probably live out of my purse for at least two days. But it’s probably true…in there you will find at least one apple; my own “trail mix” made of high fiber cereal, almonds, pistachios, and pumpkin seeds; Justin’s Nut Butter packets; a slice of my favorite yeast whole wheat pumpkin bread; a ziplock bag of sugar snap peas and carrots; and around three snack bars. I don’t necessarily eat all of this every day, but I like to be prepared. Once I exhaust all of my “whole food” resources (i.e., the fruit, vegetables, nuts, and whole wheat bread) and I’m hungry, I often resort to one of the bars. I don’t really like to eat snack/meal/protein bars, because they’re processed and often contain too many ingredients and sugar; but I will eat one to tide me over until I can reach my refrigerator.
The market for energy bars is a multi-billion dollar industry. Hundreds of brands cater to individual niches, including those for professional and elite athletes, cyclists, children, women, body builders, the gluten-free (or vegan, no-sugar, or soy-free) crowd, and even those wanting to support alternative causes (check out Two Degrees bars). Some are no more nutritious than a candy bar, with vast amounts of sugar and other unhealthy ingredients, while others pack decent amounts of protein, fiber, and healthy fats. I’ve been on the lookout for years for healthier bars: those that contain under 200 calories, minimal added sugar, and at least 3 grams each of fiber and protein.
NuGo Slim Raspberry Truffle (170 calories, 6 g fat, 9 g fiber, 2 g sugar, 15 g protein)
Taste: Rich, dark chocolate with bits of raspberry. These are for chocolate-lovers!
Nutrition: The NuGo Slim bars, which also come in Roasted Peanut and Brownie Crunch, are made with real dark chocolate but only contain 2 grams of sugar – and even better, they don’t contain artificial sweeteners or sugar alcohols. With 15 grams of protein and 9 grams of fiber, these bars have staying power without a sugar crash.
Tags: Low Glycemic, Diabetic-friendly, Gluten-free, Kosher
Regeneration USA Anti-Aging Whole Food Bar Original Goji Flavor (210 calories, 8 g fat, 9 g fiber, 15 g sugar, 9 g protein)
Taste: Berry, nutty flavor; crunchy-meets-soft texture
Nutrition: In the energy bar world, these would be considered the “superbar.” They contain a smattering of superfoods with flavanoids, anti-inflammatory nutrients, and antioxidants: sprouted flax, almond butter, cashews, chia seeds, quinoa, sprouted buckwheat, blueberries, and cocoa nibs (all of which are organic). The bars also contain resVida™ trans-Resveratrol, which gives them the resveratrol equivalent of 30 bottles of red wine and a certified antioxidant capacity of 7,800. While the sugar content seems high, most of it is from dried fruits and raw honey.
Tags: 100% Organic, Raw, Sprouted, Vegan, Kosher, Gluten-free, Low Glycemic
Smart For Life Green Tea Protein Bar (180 calories, 4 g fat, 2 g fiber, 10 g sugar, 18 g protein)
Taste: Like a slightly denser rice crispy treat. Bonus: unlike other protein bars, these aren’t chalky and hard to chew.
Nutrition: These bars, with a “balanced amino acid blend,” pack a lot of protein without going over the 200-calorie mark. This bar cuts hunger and cravings, but it also increases your metabolic rate: studies show that a high-protein meal can elevate your metabolism by 35% for the following 12 hours. The Green Tea Protein Bar has further metabolism-boosting powers: it is supplemented with green tea extract. Green tea extract has also been shown to help decrease LDL cholesterol levels, improve blood sugar metabolism, and, according to a recent study, enhance protein metabolism (in other words: green tea extract enhances an enzyme that helps break down protein, helping you to feel fuller after a high-protein meal and allowing your body to efficiently utilize protein).
Tags: Gluten-Free, No Artificial Ingredients or Preservatives, No HFCS or Sugar Alcohols, Contains Omega-3 Fatty Acids
KIND Fruit & Nut (180 calories, 11 g fat, 4 g fiber, 12 g sugar, 5 g protein)
Taste: Like melted trail mix with a fruity tang
Nutrition: KIND bars have won all sorts of awards since the launch of their first bar, including “Healthiest Packaged Foods of 2011” from Prevention Magazine, “Best Snack for Women” from Women’s Health Magazine, and “Best Snack Bar” from Health Magazine. These bars, which come in 11 flavors and highlight different nutritional benefits on the bars (+ protein, + omega-3, + antioxidants, + calcium) are nutritionally dense with ingredients you “can see and pronounce.” If you’re worried about snacking and weight gain, KIND bars won’t pack on the pounds: a 2010 study found that participants who added two KIND bars to their daily diet maintained weight, BMI, and waist size. These results indicate that nutritious snacking can be a part of a healthy diet.
Tags: Gluten-Free, Low Glycemic, Whole Foods